Grand Turk Island is the home of Cockburn Town, which is the administrative, political, cultural, and financial center of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is located within the Turks Islands, which make up the smaller of the two archipelagos that give the little island group its name. One of the Grand Turk attractions is the charming little capital city itself, with its wonderful Bermudian-style colonial architecture and the respected Turks and Caicos National Museum.
Grand Turk tourism benefits from miles of pristine beaches and fabulous scuba diving and snorkeling. The snorkeling is great and accessible to all levels of expertise because of the very shallow water off most of the beaches. The scuba diving is made excellent because of sudden and steep drop off the shallow beach areas. Common sites are humpback whales during the season, huge schools of huge manta rays, dolphins, and whale sharks. Ships on Caribbean cruises have historically anchored off Cockburn Town and tendered their passengers in. There were ideas to develop a cruise port there, but those plans were scrapped when it was realized how much damage dredging the area would do to the dive sites offshore.
Grand Turk Island and Cockburn Town are sleepy and laid back, the way Caribbean islands were in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. A great deal of the Grand Turk attractions include this lazy atmosphere, so much so that by 2007 much of the "action" had moved to larger Providenciales where, in 1984, the first of the major resorts was built. Grand Turk tourism took off again after Carnival Cruise Lines built a multimillion cruise port on the southern end of the island. Numerous international cruise lines other than Carnival ships dock here, bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
This cruise center is one of the Grand Turk attractions all on its own, and a significant number of the thousands of passengers who dock here will spend a significant amount of time right in the area. Passengers disembark their ships directly onto an almost 400-foot-long pier that leads to the facility where there is a long beach with powder white sand, restaurants, bars, shopping outlets, and a unique FlowRider surfing attraction. You can enjoy your dining at the largest (17,000 square feet) Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville bar, restaurant, and retail outlet (complete with swimming pool and cabanas). There is even a massage center.
While Grand Turk tourism is centered here at the cruise port, plenty of passengers book shore excursions or hop into a taxi to explore the other Grand Turk Island attractions. There is biking and horseback riding, four-by-four dune safaris, scuba diving and snorkeling trips, sport fishing and sailing, and much more. For those who want to enjoy a different beach, one of the most popular is Governors Beach. Another popular excursion is to the historic 1852 Grand Turk Lighthouse, which is still operational. There are also nature trails around the lighthouse that are excellent for birdwatching. An effort has been made to prevent the kind of noisy activity you get with speed boats, water skiing, jet skis and other typical resort beach vehicles.
Top image: James Willamor (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0